Editorial ~ 2010: July


This month we give our opinions on the first steps towards a true national body, the true results of self assessment and priase ther esurgence of the Fairey (Geneva) Band.

A step in the right direction

The setting up of a working party to formulate concrete aims and objectives for an overseeing umbrella organisation for the benefit of the brass band movement is rightly being hailed as a significant landmark moment.

However, the hard part is yet to come.

As Robert Morgan rightly stated by quoting a recent 4BR editorial, it’s success will ultimately depend on not what aims we would like it to consider for us all, but what its constituent parts may be prepared to give up in order to achieve them.

The majority of delegates (although not all) to the Birmingham Conference left enthused about the degree of co-operation and compromise that was displayed by various interested parties.

However, any claims of it being a true ground breaking achievement must be kept on hold until concrete proposals on its future structure are delivered.

One of the great difficulties will surely to solidify its terms of reference, scope and powers, if any?

Questions over its vision, structure, membership, democracy of ownership and financial sustainability will have to be addressed in detail.

This may well mean that eventually some other bodies and organisations having to take difficult decisions themselves for the benefit of the greater good of the movement. .

Thankfully, the summit elected a group of nine people who it was generally agreed had that ability and vision to create a blueprint for an ‘umbrella body’ that could effectively represent the whole of the banding movement’s best interests.

As one small step in the right direction that was a major achievement in itself. The second step could well set that long overdue representative body up and running.

We wish them well at their first meeting in Birmingham on 5th September.

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Setting the bar too low

Self assessment never quite works. It is invariably undermined by a lack of brutal individual honesty.

And as a means of providing an accurate reflection of professional competency and excellence, it also invariably leads to the bar being set too low.

It perhaps explains why 84% of the existing members of the Association of Brass Band Adjudicators believe themselves to have the skills and status to adjudicate contests at the very highest level both at home and abroad.

This is a nonsense.

To be fair to ABBA, and C. Brian Buckley who devised the system, they perhaps knew that the initial results would produce this unrealistic figure.  

In a recent interview with 4BR, Brian Buckley broadly accepted that in reality the actual number of current adjudicators who would meet the highest criteria levels in future would be much lower, as the true level of the bar is raised through future continuous development.    

However, if future professional appraisal of ABBA members needs a benchmark level of excellence then 84% is as good a figure as any, especially if the system itself becomes much more robust, independent and accurately defined.

We therefore await the next set of self assessment results with interest.

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In praise of Fairey

One look at the headstones in the brass band graveyard makes for depressing reading.

The long departed souls of bands such as Sun Life, Kennedy Swinton, CWS (Manchester) and Ferodo Works lie side by side by the younger corpses of Pennine Brass, First City Brass and Sellers International.

And at a time when more than a few famous banding names have teetered on the brink of having the life support machine switched off, the resurgence of one of its most famous names in Fairey (Geneva) should be cause for celebration by everyone in the banding movement.

Fairey’s went seven long years without a proper contesting win. Seven long years when they could have gone under if they hadn’t been for a great deal of soul searching allied to a stubborn desire to battle through come what may.

Other bands have gone through, or are going through, the same process – bands such as Hammonds Saltaire, Ransome and Marple – all former British Open winners, to those further down the contesting ladder.

Each and every one of them can take a great deal of encouragement from Fairey and their desire not to become another entry in the brass band obituary notices. Let’s hope more are able to follow their example.

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